Many schools across Sampson County are celebrating Red Ribbon Week in an effort to bring awareness to the dangers of using drugs.
As part of the monthly education series sponsored by Sampson Regional Medical Center and Eastpointe, community members gathered Wednesday for an informative session on substance abuse and adolescents, in connection with the national event.
Red Ribbon Week is a national event celebrated every Oct. 21-29 at schools, police departments and community centers. The event takes place to teach children the dangers of narcotics and drug abuse.
Tory Graham, behavioral health specialist with Commwell Health, presented during Wednesday’s session, highlighting the growing problem with adolescents who are using and abusing drugs.
“Kids who use drugs are younger,” Graham said. “The level of substance they are using is changing as well. Substance abuse causes a lot of behavioral issues that can get out of hand.”
Graham said at one time, someone could easily look at a someone, and depending on their drug of choice, tell their age. Not anymore.
“You have kids who are doing cocaine, heroin and other drugs,” Graham said. “It isn’t just marijuana our kids are getting into.”
Using more hardcore drugs is what Graham said to be “normal society.”
Substance abuse, Graham said, does cause behavioral issues in adolescents. There is a great deal of emotional pain that comes along with drug use and abuse.
“Parents can be a huge barrier,” Courtney Boyette, community relations specialist with Eastpointe, said. “Parents are often giving the kids drugs or allowing them to do the drugs in front of them. Many of the parents are doing drugs themselves.”
According to statistics provided by Eastpointe, 23 million Americans 12 and older need help for substance abuse. An astounding 71 percent of teens say they have friends who use marijuana often and one in five teens abuse prescription drugs.
“What is on the rise is the use of opiates,” Graham said. “Then the kids are transitioning into heroin.”
The wearing of red satin ribbons started in memory of an officer who was killed in the line of duty by a dangerous drug cartel. The message continues to promote the prevention of illegal drug use and serves as a warning to those who have tried drugs or may even have a problem with addiction.
For many of the kids Graham and others at Eastpointe deal with, are parents who are unwilling to help.
“We often clean these kids up and throw them back into the dirty water,” Graham said. “The family environment isn’t good.”
Graham offered the social workers, school counselors and crime prevention specialist who attended Wednesday’s session tactics to use when dealing with an adolescent who may be using drugs or around drug use.
“Every moment counts when dealing with a teen who is abusing a substance,” Graham shared.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.